Need tips for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? We got you covered!
Kilimanjaro has been referred to as ‘The Roof of Africa’, and there is a good reason for it. Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world!
However, it must be noted that this bucket-list climb is no walk in the park. For many, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and needs to be prepared for as such. Preparing for a trek like this one means more than just getting fit, and if you have been searching for a place to find all the information you need – we’ve got you covered.
1. Climb during the dry season
Technically, you climb Mt Kilimanjaro any time of the year… but should you? Nope.
If you go during the wet seasons (March to May and November to early December), your success rate will plummet and you may not even reach summit day. The terrain is muddy, making the climb difficult, and storms are frequent, meaning you’ll spend most of your time cold and wet.
Instead, swap the bad weather out for the clear, sunny skies of the dry season. Between January to February and June to October, you’ll have the best conditions to climb Mount Kilimanjaro successfully.
The only downside? You won’t be the only one on the trail. It’s the most popular time to summit Africa’s highest mountain.
2. Train for summiting mount Kilimanjaro
How committed are you to your gym membership? If the answer is not a resounding “I’m married to the treadmill!” you need to dust off your activewear if you’re going to take on days of trekking.
While hiking Kilimanjaro is possible for just about everyone, trekking experts recommend training for the summit seriously. Without a regular gym schedule (four to five times a week), a committed relationship with the Stairmaster, and four to seven-hour hikes on the weekend with a 10kg pack, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Not only does a high level of fitness make the trek more enjoyable, but it will help your body deal with the physical strain and keep altitude sickness at bay. When should you start training for Mt Kilimanjaro? At least six to eight months before your trek.
3. Take it slow to avoid altitude sickness
Altitude sickness is your number one enemy on Kilimanjaro. It’s what stops most people from making it to the summit and could be your undoing if you climb too quickly as there is a lack of oxygen at extreme altitudes.
During your trek, you’ll often hear your guides saying “pole pole.” It’s Swahili for “slowly, slowly.” The reason? The slower your ascent, the more time your body will have to acclimatize to the high altitude as oxygen levels begin to drop. If you go up too fast, you risk getting sick and being forced to descend to save your life.
So take it “pole pole.” Enjoy the scenery, don’t rush, and before you know it, you’ll be standing on top of Africa’s highest peak!
4. Choose your route carefully
The seven Kilimanjaro routes kinda sound like the premise of a Netflix reality TV show. “Choose your route wisely, and you’ll make it to the top. Choose poorly, and you might not.”
So how do you pick the best Kilimanjaro route? It all comes down to personal preference. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you can expect from each one:
- Marangu Route: The Marangu Route is the quickest, cheapest, and most comfortable. However, chance of success is low because you only have five days to summit.
- Machame Route: The Machame Route is a beautiful route. It goes up the southern flank and takes six to seven days to summit. The downside? It’s a popular route and tough going.
- Lemosho Route: The Lemosho Route is one of the best Kilimanjaro routes with a high success rate. It’s an incredibly scenic route along the western ridge with fewer people and takes six to nine days to complete.
- Rongai Route: The Rongai Route is the only route that approaches the summit from the north. It is an easier climb than Machame, Lemosho, and Shira but isn’t as scenic.
- Northern Circuit Route: The Northern Circuit Route is the longest of the Kilimanjaro climbing routes and the newest. It has high success rates and beautiful scenery along the way.
- Umbwe Route: The Umbwe Route is the shortest, steepest, and hardest Kilimanjaro route. You should only attempt it if you’re an experienced climber and you’re confident your body will respond well to the altitude.
5. Invest in high-quality gear
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is nothing to scoff at. It is a 19,000-foot mountain, after all. If you want to climb Kilimanjaro successfully, you need to invest in high-quality gear.
Seriously, don’t skimp on it.
You need clothes, hiking boots or comfortable walking shoes, and other hiking necessities that are made for trekking and can handle the freezing temperatures of Kili when you enter the alpine zone.
Going with the cheapest option at the store isn’t going to keep you warm or make the trek enjoyable.
Not sure what to pack? Check out our Kilimanjaro packing lists.
6. Pack layers for the different climate zones
One of the fascinating facts about Kilimanjaro is that it has five different climate zones.
When you start the hike, you’ll trek through a humid rainforest. It’s home to wildlife, pesky mosquitoes, and high temperatures.
But the further up you go, the colder it becomes, and soon you’ll need to ditch your shorts for insulated layers to survive the freezing ice caps of Kilimanjaro.
When packing, opt for layers. It’s one of the best tips for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro that’ll make your life 10x easier and help you quickly adapt to the different climate zones on the mountain.
7. Pack high-calorie snacks
Do you know what Kilimanjaro does not have? 24h pizza joints and cafe shops to satiate your hunger pains.
While your personal chef will take care of whipping up three nutritious main meals, you’ll need to bring a few high-calorie and high-energy snacks to conquer the mountain.
Your saving grace will be things like:
- protein bars
- beef jerky
- dried fruit
Tip: Keep your snacks in the pockets on your backpack’s hip straps. It will make it 10x easier to reach for your beef jerky and help keep the effects of high-altitude trekking at bay.
8. Drink plenty of water & pack water bottles
Hands down, drinking lots of water is one of the most important tips for climbing Kilimanjaro. The high altitude and physical exercise means you’re going to sweat and become dehydrated – fast.
To avoid this, bring a three-liter water bladder. It straps to the back of your pack, and the nozzle locks onto your front strap. When you get thirsty, simply bite down on the nozzle, and voila! You have water without needing to stop or take your bag off.
But that’s not all you need to bring.
After day one, you’ll refill your water from nearby streams. For this, you should carry water purification tablets (iodine pills) to purify the water, as well as rehydration sachets (if you don’t like the flavor of iodine).
Lastly, you’ll need a one-liter Nalgene water bottle. This will help you reach the recommended water carrying capacity of four to five liters and help you on summit night.
Due to the freezing temperatures at the top of Kilimanjaro, your water bladder valve freezes over, which means you won’t be able to drink from it. The water bottle doesn’t have this problem and will keep you hydrated as you push to summit the mountain at sunrise.
9. Pay for the "Bank of America": A portable private toilet
For the low price of $100, you can have some first-world convenience on top of Africa’s highest peak.
The “Bank of America” is a zippered, waterproof, and portable bathroom tent and it’s one of the best tips for climbing Kilimanjaro.
Without it, you’ll need to trek to the old wooden outhouses or find some shelter behind the volcanic outcroppings. It will save you from the long lines or walking to find a hole-in-the-ground in the middle of the night.
It’s not a must-have, but it’s a creature comfort that’ll make the hike that much more bearable.
10. Take your doctor's advice and bring meds
Before you board your flights and touch down in Tanzania, go visit your doctor. The lowland jungle is rife with mosquitos, and malaria is a real risk here, so bring antimalarial medication if you can. The further up you go, you might need the help of altitude pills to acclimatize, and unfamiliar bacteria can knock out your immune system.
A quick visit to the doctor can help you prepare for any health hiccups and get you to the summit.
Tip: Stock up on any other specialized medication or toiletries you need before leaving home. Don’t assume everything will be readily available in Tanzania.
11. Break in your hiking shoes beforehand
When trekking Kilimanjaro, comfortable hiking shoes are key. There’s nothing worse than getting blisters on a multi-day trek. It’s painful, uncomfortable, and will make you regret Googling: “How to successfully climb Kilimanjaro.”
If you’re going to buy new shoes for the trek, make sure your boots are insulated, waterproof, and have excellent ankle support And don’t forget to try the boots on with your summit socks! Once you’re happy, take your hiking shoes out on the trails.
A good rule of thumb? Hike at least 100km in your new shoes before heading to Kilimanjaro.
Tip: Wear your hiking shoes on the plane. If your luggage goes missing, you won’t be without your most important item.
12. Take time to rest
Self-care is your number one priority while trekking Mt Kilimanjaro. Without it, you might push your body too hard and have to turn back. To avoid this, make this tip for climbing Kilimanjaro your mantra: Take time to rest.
During the day, take a break if you need one. Remember, you’re not on the mountain trying to break a world record. You’re there to accomplish climbing Kilimanjaro for yourself. So look after yourself.
At camp, don’t use more energy than necessary. Go lie down in your tent, relax, and eat dinner even if you don’t feel hungry. Your body needs the calories to not only recover but to have enough energy to get you up the mountain.
13. Choose a reputable company for your Kilimanjaro climb
Ultimately, having an unforgettable Kilimanjaro hike boils down to choosing a reputable trekking company with experienced guides.
While it’s tempting to go with the lowest price, you’re gambling with your safety. Cheap or unknown tour companies are often unreliable and don’t use the high-quality gear.
If your guide is “green” and doesn’t know how to detect or treat altitude sickness, you could find yourself in a serious medical situation.
Good Kilimanjaro trekking companies use guides that know how to improve your chances of reaching the summit safely and have proof to back this up.
14. Find a reason
Take this advice to heart: deciding on your reason to climb Kilimanjaro is important. Your reason is your motivation, and without motivation where do you even start, right? The days of hiking will not come easily, and for a successful climb, you’ll need to stay motivated.
15. Listen to your body
There are some important tell-tale signs when it comes to altitude sickness, and if you ignore them – well let’s just not go there. We want you to be safe, and to do that, you need to listen to and respect your body. Don’t try to push yourself further than you know you can go.
Successfully climbing mount Kilimanjaro: FAQ
- How easy is it to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? Climbing Kilimanjaro isn’t hard. The trails are not steep, but the high altitude is what stops most people from summiting.
- What is the best month to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? The best months to climb Kilimanjaro are January to February and June to October.
- What is the success rate of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? The average summit success rate for Kilimanjaro is 65%.
- Can a beginner climb Mount Kilimanjaro? Mount Kilimanjaro is suitable for beginners, but you do need to train. If you’re not fit, you won’t make it to the summit.
Ready to conquer mount Kilimanjaro?
Gym membership? Check.
Trekking poles and trekking gear? Check.
Flights to Tanzania? Triple check.Now that you know how to successfully climb Kilimanjaro, all that’s left is to book your Kilimanjaro trekking package. Choose your route, and let’s get you to the Roof of Africa!